Dementia: A Master Class

Yesterday I attended a Master Class in how to respond to someone with dementia.  During the evening we called in to see Clarice to hear how Dennis was following his return from hospital to his Care Home.  I had already sought a progress report from their son, so there would be no real surprises in store.

Clarice never faltered in her support to Maureen during the half an hour or so we were in her company.  If I had been able to video her performance we would have had some excellent training material on our hands.  She maintained a compassionate response to all Maureen’s questions; even when they had been asked several times.  Never once did she show any impatience as Maureen demonstrated that she simply could not grasp developments of the last couple of days.

Just to put matters into context Dennis is now on end of life care.  He has been discharged from hospital with a terminal diagnosis.  A District Nurse will  call at his Care Home to keep him comfortable: at 97 he is worn out and his life is drawing to a close.  Despite Clarice’s gentle performance it was clear that Maureen had little idea where he was or the severity of his condition.

It is not surprising that Clarice was able to deliver a Master Class: she has cared for Dennis for 15 years.  We have popped round to see them on many occasions and seen the progression of Alzheimer’s disease first hand.  I am not sure how Clarice has coped with something akin to a marathon of caring.  I have often looked at what she has dealt with day after day and shuddered.

Clarice has been something of a mentor to me in my approach to caring for Maureen.  Like myself she spotted signs of dementia well before others accepted there were worrying signs on the memory front.  Even in what might be seen as her darkest hour her support to Maureen was first class.  She has always had a soft spot for Maureen and her love for her niece has never been in question.  The other thing she has is experience of living with dementia; being on call 24/7.   That is why she was able to deliver a Master Class in how to interact with someone with dementia – despite her own harrowing experiences of the last couple of days.

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